On October the twenty-second in the year nineteen eighty-two, the United States Mint made the last bronze one-cent coins. Bronze was getting too expensive to waste on making pennies, just as silver was too expensive to use for dimes, quarters, and half-dollars after 1964. So we got pennies made of copper-plated zinc from then on.
Nowadays it’s too expensive to make pennies even from cheap copper-plated zinc. What next? The mint tried aluminum pennies, but stopped when it turned out that if a kid swallows an aluminum penny it can’t be detected by X-ray. But still, a zinc penny, which can be detected, can be lethal. Dogs and kids have already died from ingesting zinc pennies which become poisonous when exposed to stomach acid.
Nobody ever died from swallowing a bronze penny. Shouldn’t we go back to “real” money just for safety’s sake regardless of cost? Or better yet, bite the bullet (please—not one made of toxic lead!) — eliminate the penny. Australia did it over a decade ago. So did New Zealand and Canada. Let’s admit it—inflation has eliminated the need for micro-parts of the limp dollar.
I was in Brazil in 1964 and could have bought a large shopping bag filled with their aluminum coins for five dollars. (And that was probably because I was an American sailor; regular folks could have gotten the bag for a dollar.) All of the then-circulating money in Brazil was paper.
Let’s eliminate all metal money. Let’s print our “paper” money on durable plastic like the Australians do. It lasts longer and offers some intriguing design opportunities, like transparency. Imagine—esthetic money. And while we’re dreaming, let’s retire the old founders and presidents and replace their images with current movie and television stars in skimpy garb. Collector dollars! Imagine the revenue stream to the treasury when people grab onto the latest bills and hoard them in private collections! Who in his right mind would spend a 3-D holographic J-Lo especially if she was a limited edition? Even a vintage Mickey Mouse would appeal to a certain demographic, a limited demographic for sure, but still. My mind reeks.
I mean reels.